The Skillet Lickers’ name is synonymous with string band music in Georgia. This band from Dacula is familar to Georgia historians and flok music fans across the world. Their recordings have sold millions and their style remains influential to the development of the country, folk, and bluegrass music. Today’s Skillet Lickers are carrying on a tradition of string band music going back four generations. Phil Tanner, and his son Russ, keep the Skillet Licker tradition going with the present day band. The Skillet Lickers’ repertoire includes breakdown songs like “Cumberland Gap” and “Hen Cackle”, comic folk songs “Three Nights Drunk” and “The Burglar Man”. They also rely on a variety of country and bluegrass standards showing how the original Skillet Lickers’ work has influenced more modern music.
The band takes root in the 1920’s when a Dacula chicken farmer, Gid Tanner, was asked by Columbia Records to go to New York and record some of that “hillbilly music” on the market… and it sold, helping to lay the foundation for today’s country and bluegrass genres. Many musicians recorded with the Skillet Lickers, but it was Gid’s son, Gordon, who took the group to the peak of its sales. In 1934 the band was asked to record one last time in San Antonio, Texas fir RCA. Gordon, who was 17 at the time was asked to go along to do the driving. Once in session, he was placed in front of the mic as the lead fiddler. Thoe cuts, “Down Yonder” and “Back Up and Push” sold over a million copies. That same music was handed down to Gordon’s son Phil, and Phil’s son Russ, who along with the other band members, have their own heritage in the traditional music field and work at the music they love.The Skillet Lickers love their stories and their history, but most of all, they love the music. It is a fun music that anyone can enjoy. Unlike today’s commercial music that is created for money alone, the Skillet Lickers have one thing in mind for their music, just simple enjoyment. “We want the audience to enjoy the music as much as we have playing,” says Phil Tanner. And, whether you’re re-living a classic Skillet Licker recording or seeing a show in person, there’s no doubt that’s the case.